NotCo: Chilean plant-based food for the masses
On the heels of closing an $85 million funding round to enter the US market, Matias Muchnick, chief executive of Chilean company NotCo, speaks with NutritionInvestor about growing the business with technology and sustainable credentials
The Not Company (NotCo) is a Chilean foodtech business that disrupted the packaged food space since the launch of NotMayo, a plant-based mayonnaise made with aquafaba, the dense water in which chickpeas have been cooked. The recipe was selected by Giuseppe, the company’s artificial intelligence algorithm that uses a database of 400,000 vegetables, plants and grains.
Chileans consume an average of 2.3 kilos of mayonnaise a year, on par with consumption in Lithuania, Russia and Belgium, the highest in the world. Consumers in Chile loved NotMayo, and the product flew off the shelves, paving the way for the company to expand quickly.
“In less than two years we expanded our product portfolio in Chile from six SKUs (stock-keeping units) in one category to four categories and 37 SKUs,” says Matias Muchnick, co-founder and chief executive of NotCo. “In Chile, since NotCo’s launch, our brand awareness has grown 42%, and penetration reaches 22%,” he says.
Garlic, olive and spicy flavours joined the NotMayo line, and the company expanded the offering with NotMilk, NotIceCream, and NotBurger, all plant-based products made with selected ingredients from Guiseppe’s algorithm, cooked and tasted by chefs in NotCo’s kitchen.
NotCo is now selling all four categories in Brazil and Argentina, and setting up operations in the US, following the closing of a Series C funding round led by Future Positive Capital and L Catterton that raised $85 million.
Founded in 2015, NotCo has attracted 11 investors to date and raised $115 million, including $30 million from the previous round. The Craftory, Bezos Expedition, IndieBio, and SOSV are some of the top venture capital firms investing in NotCo, now valued at $300 million.
The mission behind NotCo
Headquartered in Santiago, Chile’s capital city, NotCo is the brainchild of Matias Muchnick. He worked at JP Morgan’s Global Private Banking Program in Hong Kong for a few months, and upon his return to Chile, he gathered a science-based team to start building his path into entrepreneurship.
Muchnick joined forces with Karim Pichara and Pablo Zamora to amalgamate know-how in biotechnology and computational science with his experience in business and finance. Together, the trio embarked on the mission to reinvent the food industry.
NotCo started with an ambitious idea: “Combining machine learning technologies with breakthrough science to crack one of the most challenging enigmas of humanity,” says Muchnick.
For Muchnick, that enigma is creating amazingly tasty food that is good for our health, the environment, and the animals, and that would help deliver nutrition using exponentially fewer resources than what we have today.
“This is a disruption [to the food industry],” says Muchnick, arguing that the ability to mimic all that we love in food with plant-based ingredients is a challenge.
“The idea of finding the answer [to this enigma] among those more than 400,000 unexplored species of plants existing in the world is exciting,” says Muchnick. “By doing this, we’ve understood that what we thought impossible only a few years ago is now a fact.”
Muchnick says that he wants to fix the food system with NotCo and knows there is still a long way to go, which is what motivates him to keep pushing NotCo forward.
“It is our day-to-day duty to improve our technology and science to allow this to happen,” he says. “[We want to] bring amazingly tasty foods, affordable, efficient in the use of resources, sustainable and protecting animal rights.
“We’ve done that but still on a low scale. Our ambition is to create a new way of making the food we love to eat, and that is with plants.”
To the point
What is your relationship with your investors? Do you take advice from them?
If you don’t take advice from an investor, you have chosen the wrong investor.
What consumer segment is most loyal to the brand?
As a pioneer foodtech in plant-based products, we have discovered an important potential of loyal consumers who are mainly in search of tasty food. Indulgence is key.
Today, people are in search of food that is both good for us and the planet. For instance, more than 85% of NotMayo’s consumers don’t have any food restriction or specific diet. For them, NotMayo just tastes good and feels good, so why not!
What are NotCo’s sustainable credentials?
We’ll never stop asking ourselves how can we do it better. For us, taking the animal out of the equation in all of our products is the starting point.
For example, to produce 100 grams of NotBurger, we use 87% less water and 89% less C02 than what other companies use to make a regular one. This approach represents savings of 1.308 litres of water – or a week of showers, as we put it – and 3,000 less CO2, the emissions from driving 13.6 km.
Your manufacturing process is sustainable, but what can you tell us about the packaging?
All of our packaging is recyclable. Both in Chile and Brazil, we manage to work with companies that help us use the most sustainable version possible.
Right now, we are testing packaging alternatives for our newest NotIceCream format that is completely eco-friendly and biodegradable.
What product development is in the pipeline?
We’re currently working on many developments, mainly focused on the further improvements of our existing products and other surprises that will blow people’s minds and tastebuds!